This article is part of the critical project Tony Scott: A Moving Target
in which an analysis of a scene from a Tony Scott film is passed anonymously to the next participant in the project to respond to with an analysis of his or her own.
"If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology. I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capability that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
—Frank Church, Chair, United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, 1975
"The essence of Virginia republicanism lay in a single maxim: THE GOVERNMENT SHALL NOT BE THE FINAL JUDGE OF ITS OWN POWERS. The liberties of America, as the Republican party believed, rested in this nutshell; for if the Government, either in its legislative, executive, or judicial departments, or in any combination of them, could define its own powers in the last resort, then its will, and not the letter of the Constitution, was law."
— Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the First Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1805
"This is a surveillance state run amok."
Standard Op represents a tribute to one of the decade’s most contemporary directors, Tony Scott, by two prolific amateur filmmakers: David Phelps and the NSA. “Scott was a real talent,” said the NSA in a statement, “perhaps the only contemporary director who truly aspired to panoptical vision of every action at once from all angles and possible lighting—as we see when he pays homage to the agency in Jack Black’s televisual investigation in Enemy of the State. The amount of data in any two frames of Scott is tremendous, really what radar should aspire to.”
“He’s someone who’s been an inspiration to me for years,” said Phelps. “Just someone whose every shot is so powerful as a sign that they no longer needing to be tethered to the staid spatial or temporal discourses of reality. Really the one artist since Lang who could render reality superfluous.”
Both artists were quick to commend each other’s work as well.
“I love Phelps’ work,” said the NSA. “Of course we were all appreciative when he offered himself as a camera surrogate during the blackout as the security cameras were incapacitated. A true man with a movie camera: what better security camera than a human being?”
Phelps was quick to return the compliment. “The NSA! I mean, one of the giants of contemplative cinema alongside Costa and Tsai. All those long takes collapsing narrative time and production time into the real time of the shot… Warhol’s got nothing on the NSA’s Empire, which is 58 years long.”
As Phelps pointed out, however, that duration was not necessarily contrary to Scott’s schitzophrenic editing. “I think the NSA and I would both claim ourselves as working within the ‘School of Scott.’ Actually, the whole world really is the School of Scott. The image created in the image of the image.”
“Scott remains a defining influence,” said the NSA. “You look at the amazing movies the IDF has been able to release recently—the targeted killing of [Ahmed] Jabari, which we included here. It really redefines cinema: no longer recording an outside event but by using the camera to track and target the car it explodes, writing it—and then providing a record of its own unseen maneuvers. Talk about Caméra-stylo! And David [Phelps]’s direction of the scene is just sensational.”